Lake Ontario Adaptive Management Wetland Monitoring

Project Sponsor: US Environmental Protection Agency - Great Lakes Program
End Date: June 30, 2015


This wetland monitoring project addresses a critical need in the implementation of a new regulation plan for Lake Ontario. It looks in more detail at the relationships between elevation and plant composition in 16 New York wetlands by linking water-level dynamics to vegetation samples. We also monitored performance indicators for meadow marsh extent, muskrat houses, and rare plants in these wetlands. This project was a collaborative effort with DEC Division of Lands and Forests, Bureau of Real Property to create control points with centimeter-level elevation precision near each wetland and with TNC to ensure that our study design, sampling, and results satisfy the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River (LOSLR) environmental monitoring called for in the International joint Commission’s framework for adaptive management.

Background and Objectives

Since 1960, the levels and flows of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River have been managed through dams, with a primary emphasis on efficient power generation, shipping, and protection of coastal property. It is recognized that this water regulation has altered the natural cycles of high and low levels that maintain coastal wetlands and other natural coastal systems, and an alternative regulation plan is proposed by the International Joint Commission (IJC). We have good predictions about how the new water regulation plan may help maintain coastal wetlands and wildlife but field validation is needed in order to best respond to how the effects of this management play out in the landscape. This project initiates a data collection and analysis system for U.S. wetlands to support this adaptive management program of the IJC.

The primary purpose of this project is to report on ecological metrics collected to inform adaptive management for water regulation in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. We build on other wetland sampling efforts by sampling for important wetland indicators in a manner consistent with efforts in Canada. Our sample sites were 16 randomly-selected wetlands spanning the U.S. side of Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River. Included in those 16 are four each of the four primary geomorphic type: barrier beach, drowned river-mouth, open embayment, and protected embayment.

Wetland Monitoring for Lake Ontario Adaptive Management report cover.

Final report (PDF, 5.3 MB)

The final report for this Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)-funded project (spanning sampling in 2012 and 2014) is available for download: Wetland Monitoring for Lake Ontario Adaptive Management (PDF, 5.3 MB).

More information can be found at the International Joint Commission's International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board.

Related links

NYNHP Wetland Project Home

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Dec. 9, 2020 | Updated Feb. 6, 2021, 8:52 p.m.